Canto VIII

English Edition, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1   The world used in its peril to believe
2   That the fair Cypria delirious love
3   Rayed out, in the third epicycle turning;
4   Wherefore not only unto her paid honour
5   Of sacrifices and of votive cry
6   The ancient nations in the ancient error,
7   But both Dione honoured they and Cupid,
8   That as her mother, this one as her son,
9   And said that he had sat in Dido’s lap;
10   And they from her, whence I beginning take,
11   Took the denomination of the star
12   That wooes the sun, now following, now in front.
13   I was not ware of our ascending to it;
14   But of our being in it gave full faith
15   My Lady whom I saw more beauteous grow.
16   And as within a flame a spark is seen,
17   And as within a voice a voice discerned,
18   When one is steadfast, and one comes and goes,
19   Within that light beheld I other lamps
20   Move in a circle, speeding more and less,
21   Methinks in measure of their inward vision.
22   From a cold cloud descended never winds,
23   Or visible or not, so rapidly
24   They would not laggard and impeded seem
25   To any one who had those lights divine
26   Seen come towards us, leaving the gyration
27   Begun at first in the high Seraphim.
28   And behind those that most in front appeared
29   Sounded Osanna ! so that never since
30   To hear again was I without desire.
31   Then unto us more nearly one approached,
32   And it alone began: We all are ready
33   Unto thy pleasure, that thou joy in us.
34   We turn around with the celestial Princes,
35   One gyre and one gyration and one thirst,
36   To whom thou in the world of old didst say,
37   ‘Ye who, intelligent, the third heaven are moving;’
38   And are so full of love, to pleasure thee
39   A little quiet will not be less sweet.
40   After these eyes of mine themselves had offered
41   Unto my Lady reverently, and she
42   Content and certain of herself had made them,
43   Back to the light they turned, which so great promise
44   Made of itself, and Say, who art thou?was
45   My voice, imprinted with a great affection.
46   Already flashed upon my brow the crown
47   Of that dominion which the Danube waters
48   After the German borders it abandons;
49   And beautiful Trinacria, that is murky
50   ‘Twixt Pachino and Peloro, (on the gulf
51   Which greatest scath from Eurus doth receive,)
52   Not through Typhceus, but through nascent sulphur,
53   Would have awaited her own monarchs still,
54   Through me from Charles descended and from Rudolph,
55   If evil lordship, that exasperates ever
56   The subject populations, had not moved
57   Palermo to the outcry of ‘ Death ! death!’
58   And if my brother could but this foresee,
59   The greedy poverty of Catalonia
60   Straight would he flee, that it might not molest him;
61   For verily ’tis needful to provide,
62   Through him or other, so that on his bark
63   Already freighted no more freight be placed.
64   His nature, which from liberal covetous
65   Descended, such a soldiery would need
66   As should not care for hoarding in a chest.
67   Because I do believe the lofty joy
68   Thy speech infuses into me, my Lord,
69   Where every good thing doth begin and end
70   Thou seest as I see it, the more grateful
71   Is it to me; and this too hold I dear,
72   That gazing upon God thou dost discern it.
73   Glad hast thou made me; so make clear to me,
74   Since speaking thou hast stirred me up to doubt,
75   How from sweet seed can bitter issue forth.
76   This I to him; and he to me: If I
77   Can show to thee a truth, to what thou askest
78   Thy face thou’lt hold as thou dost hold thy back.
79   The Good which all the realm thou art ascending
80   Turns and contents, maketh its providence
81   To be a power within these bodies vast
82   And not alone the natures are foreseen
83   Within the mind that in itself is perfect,
84   But they together with their preservation.
85   For whatsoever thing this bow shoots forth
86   Falls foreordained unto an end foreseen,
87   Even as a shaft directed to its mark.
88   If that were not, the heaven which thou dost walk
89   Would in such manner its effects produce,
90   That they no longer would be arts, but ruins.
91   This cannot be, if the Intelligences
92   That keep these stars in motion are not maimed,
93   And maimed the First that has not made them perfect.
94   Wilt thou this truth have clearer made to thee?
95   And I: Not so; for ’tis impossible
96   That nature tire, I see, in what is needful.
97   Whence he again: Now say, would it be worse
98   For men on earth were they not citizens?
99   ‘- Yes, I replied; and here I ask no reason..
100   And can they be so, if below they live not
101   Diversely unto offices diverse?
102   No, if your master writeth well for you.’
103   So came he with deductions to this point;
104   Then he concluded: Therefore it behoves
105   The roots of your effects to be diverse.
106   Hence one is Solon born, another Xerxes,
107   Another Melchisedec, and another he
108   Who, flying through the air, his son did lose.
109   Revolving Nature, which a signet is
110   To mortal wax, doth practise well her art,
111   But not one inn distinguish from another;
112   Thence happens it that Esau differeth
113   In seed from Jacob; and Quirinus comes
114   From sire so vile that he is given to Mars.
115   A generated nature its own way
116   Would always make like its progenitors,
117   If Providence divine were not triumphant.
118   Now that which was behind thee is before thee;
119   But that thou know that I with thee am pleased,
120   With a corollary will I mantle thee.
121   Evermore nature, if it fortune find
122   Discordant to it, like each other seed
123   Out of its region, maketh evil thrift;
124   And if the world below would fix its mind
125   On the foundation which is laid by nature,
126   Pursuing that, ‘twould have the people good.
127   But you unto religion wrench aside
128   Him who was born to gird him with the sword,
129   And make a king of him who is for sermons;
130   Therefore your footsteps wander from the road.